Wednesday, April 30, 2008

News; Gigantic Prehistoric Frog

A team of researchers in Madagascar has discovered the fossil of what may be the largest frog to have ever lived. The beach-ball-size amphibian, which grew to be 16 inches (40.6 centimeters) long and weighed about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms), is scientifically named Beelzebufo, or ‘devil frog.’

Paleontologist David Krause of Stony Brook University in New York made the discovery and is collaborating with other scientists to determine how Beelzebufo is related to other frogs and to understand how and why they are on the island of Madagascar. Fossil frog experts Susan Evans and Marc Jones of the University College London agree that the new frog represents the first known occurrence of a fossil group in Madagascar with living relatives in South America.

"Beelzebufo appears to be a very close relative of a group of South American frogs known as 'ceratophyrines,' or 'pac-man' frogs, because of their immense mouths," said Krause.

But why wasn’t Beelzebufo found in South America? "We're asking ourselves, 'What's a 'South American' frog doing half-way around the world, in Madagascar?'" said Krause. “One possibility is that there was a land connection between South America and Madagascar during [the Late Cretaceous] period." Some researchers believe that Antarctica, Madagascar, and South America may all have been connected at one time.

Beelzebufo is, without a doubt, one of the largest frogs on record and was perhaps the largest frog ever to exist. The size, appearance, and predatory nature of the frog prompted its discoverers to call it the "armored frog from hell." The name “Beelzebufo” comes from the Greek word for devil (Beelzebub) and the Latin word for toad (bufo).

Not only was the frog huge, it was powerful, had a protective shield, an extremely wide mouth and powerful jaws. These features made Beelzebufo capable of killing lizards and other small animals, perhaps even hatchling dinosaurs.

By comparison, the largest living frog today is the goliath frog of West Africa, which can be 12.5 inches (31.7 centimeters) long and weigh about 7.2 pounds (3.2 kilograms). The largest frog alive on Madagascar today is just over four inches (10.1 centimeters) long.

Today In History; Willie Nelson, Country Singer

1933: Popular songwriter and country music singer, Willie Nelson, was born in Abott, Texas. Raised by his grandfather, Nelson began playing guitar at an early age and joined a band while in high school. After graduation, Nelson worked as a disc jockey and sang in local honky-tonk bars. At the age of 23, he recorded, financed, and sold his first song, "No Place For Me." Eventually Nelson moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. He didn't gain much momentum there, so he returned to Texas where he began to both write and perform, and his popularity grew. In 1975, he recorded his first hit album, Red-Headed Stranger. Nelson's style was part of the outlaw country style that was popularized in the 1970s. Nelson has recorded hundreds of songs both as singles and as albums, several of which reached the top of Billboard's top play list. He has also acted in several films, starting in 1979 with The Electric Horseman. During the 1980s, Nelson became involved with charities and in 1985 established Farm Aid. Originally a concert to raise money for farmers in the United States, Farm Aid has evolved into an organization promoting awareness of the importance of family farms.

Word of The Day

Hardtack: A hard biscuit or bread made with only flour and water. Also called sea biscuit, sea bread; Also called ship biscuit.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

News; Cat Adopts Dog

Things didn’t look good when Charlie the rottweiler was born at Meriden Humane Society. Charlie’s mother was too sick to nurse him, and workers struggled to keep the puppy healthy by bottle-feeding him every two hours. Luckily, Satin the cat came to the rescue.

Satin was nursing her own kitten, and exhausted workers hoped she might be willing to add one more to her family. “She loved it, when we put them together,” says director Marlena DiBianco. Satin fed Charlie for three and a half weeks. Her kittens welcomed the puppy like a brother, wrestling and sleeping with them.

In 17 years at the shelter, DiBianco has never witnessed anything like a cat nursing a puppy. That didn’t matter to Satin. Even as Charlie grew, the cat still mothered him. “He was twice her size and she would still groom him,” DiBianco says.

Today In Historys!

Joan of Arc: Led her army into Orléans in victory over the English (1429)

Dachau: Concentration camp was liberated by US soldiers (1945)

Los Angeles race riots: Began after the acquittal of police officers accused of beating Rodney King (1992)

Rent: Rock musical opened on Broadway; the Manhattan-set retelling of La bohème went on to win several Tonys, a Pulitzer and many other awards (1996)


Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Duke Ellington

1969: The highest civilian award for distinguished Americans and humanitarians, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, was awarded to Duke Ellington at a black-tie affair at the White House in honor of the composer's 70th birthday. President Nixon presented the award. Part of the citation reads, "For more than forty years he has helped to expand the frontiers of jazz, while at the same time retaining in his music the individuality and freedom of expression that are the soul of jazz." Duke Ellington was a major force in jazz and always tailored his music to suit the talents of the musicians in his band. Today his music continues to be influential. In 1973, Ellington also received the Legion of Honor from France, which is the highest civilian honor in that country.

Word of The Day

Spoon Bread: The noun spoon bread has one meaning: Soft bread made of cornmeal and sometimes rice or hominy; must be served with a spoon (chiefly Southern).
Synonym: Batter Bread.

Monday, April 28, 2008

News; Lungless Frog?!

An animal that can breathe through its skin and not through its lungs might sound a little alien-like, but strangely enough, this animal lives on Earth and is known as Barbourula kalimantanensis, the frog without lungs.

The first recorded species of frog that breathes without lungs was found in a clear, cold-water stream on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. It gets all of its oxygen through its skin.

"Nobody knew about the lunglessness before we accidentally discovered it doing routine dissections," study lead author David Bickford, a biologist at the National University of Singapore, said in an email.

His colleague Djoko Iskandar at the Bandung Institute of Technology in Indonesia first described the frog in 1978 from one specimen. About 15 years later, fishermen found another individual.

"Each specimen was deemed so valuable that scientists did not want to sacrifice the animals for dissection," Bickford said.

But the biologist immediately partially dissected several frogs when he found the species on a recent expedition to Borneo.

The researchers suggest lunglessness in B. kalimantanensis may be an adaptation to the higher oxygen content in fast-flowing, cold water.

"Cold water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water," Bickford explained.

The frog also has a low metabolic rate, which means it needs less oxygen.

What's more, the species is severely flat compared to other frogs, which increases the surface area of the skin.So biologists are unsure why a few species have entirely gotten rid of the organs, said David Wake, a biologist and expert in amphibian evolution at the University of California, Berkeley.

"This species is so rare that we know next to nothing concerning its biology," he wrote in an email. "But it is aquatic and lives in cold streams and doubtless has low basal metabolic rate.

Thus loss of lungs as an adaptation to the cold, fast-flowing water "seems like a rational hypothesis to me," he said.

Further studies of the frog to test the hypothesis, however, may be hampered by the species' rarity and endangered habitat, according to Bickford and colleagues.

Today In History; James Monroe, Fifth U.S. President

1758: The fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, was born in the colony of Virginia. After attending the College of William and Mary and serving in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Monroe returned to Virginia, where he practiced law and in 1783 was elected to the Continental Congress as a representative.

In 1787, Monroe began to serve in the Virginia Assembly and in the next year he was chosen to be a delegate to the Virginia Convention considering ratification of the new U.S. Constitution. But Monroe voted against ratification; he believed in the direct election of presidents and senators and was insistent on the inclusion of a bill of rights. His efforts, among others, ensured that the Bill of Rights became the first ten amendments to the Constitution when it was finally ratified in 1791.

Monroe had great diplomatic skills and was sent to France to represent the new nation first by President Washington and later by President Jefferson. While in France he was influential in negotiating the terms of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1816, Monroe was elected president and served two terms in office, during which time he signed the Missouri Compromise, oversaw the Seminole Wars, and expanded U.S. territories through the acquisition of the Floridas. But most people probably associate Monroe with his foreign policy as embodied in the Monroe Doctrine.

Monroe was concerned about the newly independent countries in Latin America and he did not want Spain and its allies to reclaim them. Issued as an address to Congress in 1823, Monroe repeated the U.S. policy of neutrality in any European conflicts. He also declared that the United States would not allow any country to recolonize any of their former Latin American territories; the Western Hemisphere was closed for new colonies. The Monroe Doctrine was the first significant foreign policy statement by the U.S. and many would argue that it set the course of the history of the Western Hemisphere thereafter.

Word of The Day

Orientate: To set in a definite position especially in relation the points of the compass. To acquaint with an existing situation or environment. To direct toward the interests of a particular group.

Friday, April 25, 2008

News; On The Move

All animals move. Big or small, fast or slow, animals walk, run, creep, crawl, fly, and swim. Some animals move in surprising ways. Let’s take a look at how animals move about. We’ll start by looking at sky animals.


Many birds and bugs are famous fliers. It’s easy to get airborne when you don’t weigh much. Bugs are perfect fliers. They are small, and they are lightweight.

Bugs might be little, but they can handle some major flying feats. The painted lady butterfly migrates from North Africa to Iceland. That’s 6,000 kilometers (4,000 miles)!

Birds may not be as light as a feather, but they still manage to get off the ground. Their hollow bones make them light enough to soar into the sky. Larger birds stay in the air by gliding on air currents. They don’t need to flap their wings as often as smaller birds.

Hummingbirds, on the other hand, like to hang around. They hover, beating their wings quickly to stay in one spot in the air.

Hummingbirds hover as they feed on flower nectar. The smallest hummingbirds can beat their wings as fast as 80 times a second!


Bats are the only mammals that truly fly. They are not birds. They don’t build nests. They don’t lay eggs. And they don’t have feathers.

Instead, bats have fur or hair. They give birth to babies. They make milk for their babies. In fact, bats are related to primates. Monkeys and apes are primates.

Bats are made for flight. They have short necks. They have wide chests. They also have narrow stomachs. These help them glide easily through the air.

Bats move through the air by flapping their wings. These are made of skin stretched over long bones similar to your fingers. Wing skin is amazingly thin. You can see light through it.

The thin skin makes it easy for a bat to change the shape of its wings while in flight. That lets it zigzag and dive to catch flying bugs. When they are not flying, bats use their thumbs for climbing.


Birds, bugs, and bats all have wings. That’s not true for all airborne animals. A few wingless daredevils manage to soar too.

Take the flying squirrel. It has flaps of skin that stretch along the sides of its body. The flaps act like sails, catching breezes. This lets it glide from tree to tree. It can glide about the length of a football field!

A few reptiles also glide between trees. The paradise tree snake leaps from a branch. It flattens its body. Then it wiggles from side to side to soar across the sky.

Some baby spiders make parachutes from bits of silk called gossamer. Breezes then pick up the parachutes and spiderlings, blowing them to new places.


The oceans brim with millions of different sea creatures. From tiny worms to enormous whales, they all have their own ways of getting around in the sea.

Take rays, for example. They are the birds of the sea. They have long, wing-like fins. The Pacific manta ray has fins that span 7.6 meters (25 feet). Their diamond-shaped bodies help them cut through the water.

Fish are also shaped to speed through the water. They have a cool trick to help them move up and down. Inside most fish is a sac called a swim bladder. When a fish wants to rise, it fills its swim bladder with air, and up it floats! When it swims into deeper waters, it lets out the air and sinks.

A squid goes from place to place by sucking water into its body. Then it squeezes the water out. As the water squirts out, it shoots the animal forward. A jetting squid scoots along at 40 kilometers (25 miles) an hour!


Back on land, animals move by running, jumping, walking, and wiggling. Most land animals have legs. As you know, legs are good for moving around.

Different animals use legs in different ways. Humans use their two legs to walk. Kangaroos use two legs to hop. Take the red kangaroo. It has big, powerful back legs. They are perfect for jumping around.

It also has a big, long tail. A kangaroo uses its tail for balance as it hops on its back legs. Kangaroos can jump more than 6 meters (20 feet) in one bounce.

Unlike people and kangaroos, most other mammals—rats and rhinos, monkeys and moose—use four legs for walking. There are lots of ways to use four legs.

Look at horses, for instance. They can change the patterns in the steps they take. They can walk, trot, or gallop. An animal’s walking rhythm is called its gait.


Unlike many land animals, snakes have to get around with no feet. Snakes do have strong muscles. They squeeze those muscles to wiggle their bodies forward in a series of curves. As a snake slithers, the scales, or plates, on its belly grip the ground.

Some critters have come up with even wackier ways to get from place to place. Lizards called geckos can walk upside down across a ceiling. They have tiny, invisible hairs on their feet. The hairs work like Velcro, keeping the lizards stuck to the ceiling.

Insects called water striders have hairy feet too. They don’t walk on ceilings. They walk on water! The hairs on their feet let them walk on the surface of the water without falling in.

Some lizards even run across water. If a basilisk lizard sees a predator, it drops from its tree to the water. Then it runs over the surface on its hind legs. It can go 4.5 meters (15 feet) before stopping to swim instead.


The trap-jaw ant is another bug that moves in an unusual way. Sure, it usually walks. When danger is near, though, it snaps into action.

This ant snaps its jaws shut 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye. The jaws move up to 233 kilometers (145 miles) per hour. The force of the lightning-fast snap sends the ant hurtling through the air.

Too bad the ant isn’t as good at landing. It crashes to the ground in a tangled mess. No worries. The ant untangles its legs and gets up.

From ants and bats to whales and zebras, animals move in many different ways. Yet they have similar reasons to get a move on. They look for food. They also escape from predators.

Whether they’re running, jumping, flying, or swimming, animals are trying to survive in the fast-paced world of the wild.

Today In History; The Lion of The West Opens In New York City

1831: The play The Lion of the West, which opened at New York City's Park Theater, was based on the life of David (or Davy) Crockett. It was the first play written about Crockett but wouldn't be the last. Many films, television shows, plays, and books have celebrated the American frontiersman. Within his own lifetime, Tennessee-born Crockett came to represent the untamed American West, and his exploits were already told in factual accounts and folktales. He was a frontiersman, soldier, politician, and explorer, and his death at the Alamo made his legend immortal.

Word of The Day

Avatar: The incarnation of a Hindu deity (as Vishnu). An incarnation in human form; an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person. An electronic image that represents and is manipulated by a computer user (as in a computer game).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

News; Monster Glowing Squid Captured On Video

Monster-size squid that glow in the dark have been filmed for the first time in the wild. The creatures were videotaped in the inky depths of the North Pacific Ocean off southeastern Japan. The new footage shows the squid, which can grow as big as humans, using bright, flashing lights on their arms to dazzle and catch prey.

The discovery was made by Japanese scientists who lured the massive squid with bait that was lowered alongside cameras deep down in the ocean from a research ship.

Known as the Dana octopus squid, or Taningia danae, this eight-armed species has catlike claws on its suckers but lacks the two long feeding tentacles that other big squid use to grab prey. Instead, scientists think, the deep-sea squid traps its victims using light-producing organs on the ends of two of its arms, stunning them with blinding flashes.

These organs, about the size of lemons, are called photophores. They are the largest photophores found in the animal kingdom and can be opened and closed like eyes.

The squid were filmed at depths of 780 to 3,100 feet (240 to 940 meters) during an expedition led by Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Kubodera’s team also captured the first-ever images of a live giant squid, also known as Architeuthis, in 2004.

The team says the Dana octopus squid also glowed when it wasn’t hunting. The researchers think these glows are used for communication, such as to warn other squid of danger or for attracting a mate.

Experts say the new video footage backs up what scientists previously thought about the way this glowing squid behaves.

“It’s nice to have some evidence,” says squid researcher Michael Vecchione of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “Mostly it’s been speculation up until now."

The footage also shows the Dana octopus squid is a powerful and agile hunter.

“Some people have said all deepwater squid are pretty sluggish because their muscles are not real firm when you catch them,” says Vecchione. “But this particular family has got very muscular fins, and that’s what it’s using for swimming.”

The squid is thought to be one of the world’s five biggest squid. The largest recorded specimen was caught in fishing nets off the coast of Maine in the United States in 1993. It weighed 135 pounds (61 kilograms) and measured 7.6 feet (2.3 meters) long. But living adults had never been seen until now.

The Japanese researchers followed sperm whales to track down the mysterious creatures because these whales love to eat big squid. Dead sperm whales have been found with hundreds of hard squid beaks inside their stomachs. Whales obviously find monster glowing squid a lot less scary than most humans do!

Today In History; John Russell Pope, Architect, Jefferson Memorial

1874: Architect John Russell Pope designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., which is perhaps his best-known work. The son of a New York portrait painter, Pope studied architecture at Columbia University and then received a scholarship to the American Academy in Rome. He traveled throughout Italy and Greece, studying and sketching many of the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance structures. After further studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he returned home to New York. Pope's architectural designs switched between neoclassical, Gothic, Georgian, and classical styles. Among his well-known creations are the West Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; private homes for families such as the Vanderbilts; the Roman-arch entranceway to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, built as a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt; and Union Station in Richmond, Virginia.

Word of The Day

Inanition: The exhausted condition that results from lack of food and water. The absence or loss of social, moral, or intellectual vitality or vigor.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

News; Invasive Plants

Green invaders are taking over America. Nope, not invaders from space. Plants. You might not think of plants as dangerous, but in this case they are threatening nature's delicate food web.

The invaders are plants from other countries brought here to make gardens and yards look pretty. Ever since people started to arrive on America's shores, they've carried along trees, flowers, and vegetables from other places.

Now there are so many of those plants, they are crowding out the native plants that have lived here since before human settlers arrived.

And that's a problem, says Dr. Doug Tallamy. He's an entomologist (an insect expert) at the University of Delaware. He explains that almost all the plant-eating insects in the United States—90% of them—are specialized. That means they eat only certain plants.

Pretty orange and black monarch butterflies, for example, can only dine on one plant: milkweed. If people cut down milkweed and replace it with something else, the butterflies starve, because their bodies cannot accept any other food.

But the trouble doesn't stop there, it goes right across the food web. When insects can't get the right plants to eat and they die off, then the birds don't have enough bugs for their meals. Tallamy points out that almost all migrating birds depend on insects to feed their young.

"We cannot let the plants and animals around us disappear," says Tallamy. "The way to preserve them is to give them food to eat. But when we plant non-native plants, we are clobbering the food web, because then we don't have the insects the birds need to live."

Fewer of the right plants mean fewer bugs, and fewer bugs mean fewer birds. And that's bad for the Earth, because we need a variety of living things to keep the planet healthy and beautiful.

The good news is, gardeners everywhere are working hard to protect native plants and get rid of the invaders. Many local garden centers sell native plants. "Just Google 'native plants' and your location, and you can find out which plants really belong where you live," says Tallamy.

Planting the right things makes a real difference, and fast. He describes planting milkweed in a tiny city courtyard about the size of a living room one spring. By summertime, that milkweed patch had produced 50 new monarch butterflies!

Tallamy encourages kids to go out and plant native plants. "Adopt a bird species in trouble and see if you can't plant some things that will attract the insects they need," he suggests. "It will happen—insects move around a lot, and they will find the plants you put out there for them!"

Earth Day Tip:
Plant a native plant or tree this year!

Today In History; Shirley Temple!

The little girl with the head full of curls, who at the age of six was already singing and dancing her way into the hearts of people the world over, is turning 80 today. Shirley Temple was the top-billed star of the mid-1930s. In 1932, Temple earned $50 for two days of work on one of her first films, The Red-Haired Alibi; by 1934, she was making $1,000 a week plus a $35,000 bonus at the end of each film. Her mother accompanied her to work each day, pinned her hair into 56 corkscrew curls and sent her before the cameras with an encouraging, "Sparkle, Shirley. Sparkle!"

Happy Birthday Shirley!

Word of The Day

Fuchsia: Any of various tropical shrubs or trees of the genus Fuchsia, widely cultivated for their showy, drooping purplish, reddish, or white flowers. A strong, vivid purplish red.

Monday, April 21, 2008

News; Cat Versus Dog: Finale..... ROUND, FOUR!

Dogs have the well-earned reputation of being a human’s best friend. But what about cats? When given the chance, felines can make equally wonderful buddies. National Geographic Kids identifies one final quality you want in a furry friend and compares the two animals to close our four-part series.

A Friend Makes You Laugh

In Defense of Dogs
Forget the dog park! Kato, a German shepherd mix, preferred to spend his downtime at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, in New York. At night, he guarded the Wonder Wheel, an eight-story-high Ferris wheel. But during the day, he rode it! It all started when someone put Kato on the ride to get him out of the way while cleaning. “He really liked it,” says John Vouderis, whose family owns the ride. Before long, he had his own special car outfitted with blankets, water, food, and weights to keep it from rocking. “When we’d start turning the wheel in the morning, he’d bark and scratch to go on it,” says Vouderis. He also barked to get off—for “bathroom” breaks.

In Favor of Felines
Someone had set off the security alarm at the Gladstone Library, in Oregon—again. But when librarian Catherine Powers accompanied a police officer to the library, she found everything in order. This was the fourth false alarm in three months. Fed up, Powers called a repairman. After a thorough investigation, he came to an unusual conclusion. “I think it’s the cat,” he said, after repositioning the motion detectors. “He’s sliding down the banister.” Page, the library mascot, did have the run of the place. And there was a staircase. But still … a cat sliding down the banister? Powers was doubtful. Weeks later, however, another staff member looked up to see Page on the banister at the top of the staircase. “She saw him turn and slide to the bottom,” says Powers. “Then he just strolled away.”

What do you think? Vote on my new Poll!

Today In History; Queen Elizabeth II of England

Born on this day in 1926 in Mayfair, London, Queen Elizabeth was named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, after two of her grandmothers, Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary. As the eldest daughter of George VI, Elizabeth was next in line to succeed to the throne. Throughout her youth, as a memeber of the royal family, she was immersed in the presumptive duties of a queen. Shortly after her 18th birthday in 1944, Princess Elizabeth was appointed a Counsellor of State during the King's absence on a tour of the Italian battlefields and, for the first time, carried out some of the duties of Head of State. In 1947, Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, in Westminster Abbey.

In 1952, after the death of her father, Elizabeth was coronated Queen Elizabeth II. Her coronation was the first to be televised and further expanded media coverage throughout the years served to increase her popularity and bring the monarchy closer to the British people. She and her husband have four children: Prince Charles (heir to the throne), Prince Andrew, Princess Anne, and Prince Edward.

Word of The Day

Sideburns: Growths of hair down the sides of a man's face in front of the ears, especially when worn with the rest of the beard shaved off.

Friday, April 18, 2008

News; Cat Versus Dog: Round.... Three!!!!

In Defense of Dogs
It was an ordinary Saturday. Addilyn Carter, 4, and her friend Joshua Basti, 5, were playing in Addilyn’s Seabrook, New Hampshire, backyard. Their moms were nearby, and Addilyn’s dog, a Shetland sheepdog named Cinnamon, was standing guard, as usual. Suddenly a fox—acting strangely aggressive for no apparent reason—burst out of the nearby woods and headed straight for the kids. Joshua tried to run, but the fox bit his leg. Next the fox grabbed Addilyn’s pants and would have bitten her, too, if not for Cinnamon. The brave dog, barking fiercely, caught up to the quick-moving attacker and chased the fox away. Afterward, an animal control officer reported that the fox had bitten another child earlier that day, and that it had rabies. Both injured children received treatment and are fine now. “It was scary,” says Shelly, Addilyn’s mother. “Addilyn says Cinnamon is her hero and her pal.”

In Favor of Felines
Don’t mess with Jack! That’s been the word around West Milford, New Jersey, ever since a young black bear dared to step onto Jack the cat’s home turf. “Jack goes out every day and patrols our perimeter,” says owner Donna Dickey. He chases off groundhogs, rabbits, and wandering cats. But bears? While black bears do live in New Jersey, they usually stay out of suburban neighborhoods.

Dickey thinks Jack—who often teases her dog—was hiding under a bush just before leaping out, spread-eagled. Startled, the timid bear scurried up a tree. And there he stayed, while Jack guarded the base. The stare-down lasted 15 minutes. When the bear did try to escape, Jack stood up and hissed, sending him up another tree. Only after Dickey called her pet home did the scaredy-bear slide down and run away. “He didn’t stop to look back!” says Dickey.

Check in tommorow for the final round of the Cat Versus Dog faceoff: Funny friends!

Today In History; Paul Revere's Ride

1775: An American silversmith, Paul Revere, made history when he was chosen to warn the militias at Lexington and Concord of the British army's approach. Although Revere's ride helped fend off the British, his ride was not considered out of the ordinary until Henry Wadsworth Longfellow memorialized it in the poem "Paul Revere's Ride" forty years later. Today, the poem is still recited by schoolchildren and is one of the best-known poems in American history.

Word of The Day

Rescript: Rewritten answer of a Roman emperor or of a pope to a legal inquiry or petition; an official or authoritative order, decree, edict, or announcement; an act or instance of rewriting.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

News; Cat Versus Dog: Round.......... TWO!

Dogs have the well-earned reputation of being a human’s best friend. But what about cats? When given the chance, felines can make equally wonderful buddies. National Geographic Kids continues to identify a few of the qualities you look for in a pal and then compare the two animals. So keep reading and see what you think.

A Friend Saves Your Life

In Defense of Dogs
Zion, a Labrador retriever, reacted fast. He was paddling after a stick in Colorado’s Roaring Fork River, when Ryan Rambo, 8, floated by. Ryan’s life jacket made him look like one of the summer people who float down the river for fun. Only this was early May. The river was full of melted snow, and Ryan was so cold he could barely whisper. His body temperature was dropping dangerously low. Ryan had been kayaking with an adult when their boat flipped. The adult swam to shore, but Ryan got whisked downstream to where Chelsea Bennett, 13, of Glenwood Springs, was playing with her dog, Zion.

“Zion knew the boy was in trouble and needed help,” says Chelsea. “Ryan grabbed onto the dog’s collar, and Zion just turned around and came straight back in to shore.” Friends for life, Ryan visits Zion whenever he can.

In Favor of Felines
Normally, Joey is a quiet lap-sitter. But last summer, the kitty created a ruckus. “I was napping in my bedroom, and I woke up to Joey screeching and running back and forth,” says Bernice McDowall, of McKenzie, North Dakota. Opening her eyes, McDowall found herself in a smoky haze. With Joey running alongside, she made her way through the living room, kitchen, and then out the door. By then, flames were shooting from the basement. As McDowall and Joey watched from the safety of the sheriff’s car, the firefighters who responded to her 911 call managed to quench the blaze.

McDowall had found Joey abandoned as a kitten—stuffed into a mailbox. She saved him and he’s lived with her ever since. “I feel very fortunate,” says McDowall. “Without him I’d have probably died in the smoke. Joey saved me and the house.”

Check in tommorow for round three of the Cat Versus Dog faceoff: Protective pets!

Today In History; MGM Formed

On this day in 1924, Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and the Louis B. Mayer Company merge to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM. The group was owned by Loew's Inc., a chain of theaters run by Marcus Loew. By the early 1930s, MGM was the most prestigious, glamorous, and financially successful studio in Hollywood, maintaining a stable of stars that included Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, James Stewart, and Elizabeth Taylor. The famous MGM logo, a roaring lion, debuted in 1928. The Latin phrase in the circle around the lion's head means "Art for art's sake." Classic MGM movies include The Wizard of Oz (1939), Singin' in the Rain (1952), Ben Hur (1959), and Dr. Zhivago (1965).

Word of The Day

Greenback: Specifically, U.S. Paper currency. So named because much of the printing on the reverse is green. Generally it also refers to any paper money that may not be exchangeable for precious metals.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Word of The Day

Semelparous: eproducing or breeding only once in a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

News; Cat Versus Dog: Round.. One!

Dogs have the well-earned reputation of being a human’s best friend. But what about cats? When given the chance, felines can make equally wonderful buddies. Over the next four weeks, National Geographic Kids will identify a few of the qualities you look for in a pal and then compare the two animals. So keep reading and see what you think.

A Friend Helps You When You’re Sick

In Defense of Dogs
One night, when Hazel Woodget lay down on the couch, only three of her four pet Chihuahuas snuggled beside her. Pepe, the most devoted pup, perched on her tummy, stared into her eyes, and kept sniffing her armpit instead. Annoyed, she pushed him away. Then the determined dog pounced on her chest. That’s when Woodget, of Wiltshire, England, in the United Kingdom, felt a pain that made her visit a doctor. Days later, a biopsy revealed a fast-growing cancer in her body. Woodget underwent surgery, and as soon as she was home and recovering, Pepe returned to snuggling. Months later, however, he started staring as he’d done before. Sure enough, Woodget’s cancer had spread. She was treated again.

Woodget’s cancer reappeared two more times after that, and both times Pepe alerted her. “He knew I was sick before I knew I was sick,” says Woodget. “It’s because of what Pepe did that I’m still here.” Pepe was so reliable that his story was used in a medical research study to see if cancer sniffer dogs could be trained. Turns out the answer is yes. That means hospitals may begin putting sensitive-sniffing lifesavers on staff.

In Favor of Felines
When Tee Cee sits and stares directly into his face, Michael Edmonds immediately finds a chair. That’s because Tee Cee is warning him that he’s about to suffer an epileptic seizure. Edmonds, of Yorkshire, England, faints from the seizures. They can strike as often as three times a day. But Edmonds won’t get hurt if he’s sitting down. Not only does Tee Cee warn Edmonds, but the cat also finds and alerts Edmonds’s wife by biting and tugging on her pants. Then the cat stays with Edmonds until he regains consciousness.

“None of us knows how or why Tee Cee does this,” says Samantha Laidler, Edmonds’s stepdaughter. “But it’s quite reassuring. He hasn’t been wrong yet.” All this love comes from a cat that was saved from drowning in a river as a kitten. No wonder the Cats Protection organization named Tee Cee the 2006 Rescue Cat of the Year!

Today In History; Leonardo da Vinci, Artist and Scientist

1452: Born in Florence, Italy, Leonardo da Vinci was arguably the leading artist of the Renaissance. Some of his best-known paintings include The Last Supper and La Gioconda, also known as the Mona Lisa. Although most people think of Leonardo as an artist, he actually spent more time on scientific projects than on painting. Leonardo documented many of his ideas and studies along with copious drawings in many notebooks, projects that occupied him throughout his life. The notebooks deal with four major themes--the science of painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and a general work on human anatomy. Later he added notes on his studies of botany, geology, flight, and hydrology. Leonoardo's studies demonstrated a scientific and mechanical inventiveness that was ahead of his time.

While in the service of the Duke of Milan, Leonardo worked not only as a painter and sculptor but also as a designer of weapons, buildings, and machinery. For example, he created designs for a tank and for submarines. It was at this time, too, that he made his first anatomical studies. He kept his sketches, designs, and ideas in a series of codices and manuscripts. One of these, the Codex Leicester, was recently purchased by Bill Gates for $30 million.

Word of The Day

Wampum: Beads made from polished shells that some Native Americans once used as money and jewelry.

Friday, April 11, 2008

News; The Original Seven Wonders of The World

Why name new wonders of the world? Most of the original ancient wonders no longer exist. More than 2,000 years ago, many travelers wrote about incredible sights they had seen on their journeys. Over time, seven of those places made history as the "wonders of the ancient world."

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Built: About 2,600 B.C.
Massive tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, the pyramids are the only ancient wonders still standing today.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq
Built: Date unknown
Legend has it that this garden paradise was planted on an artificial mountain, but many experts say it never really existed.

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Turkey
Built: Sixth century B.C.
This towering temple was built to honor Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt.

Statue of Zeus, Greece
Built: Fifth century B.C.
This 40-foot (12-meter) statue depicted the king of the Greek gods.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Turkey
Build: Fourth century B.C.
This elaborate tomb was built for King Mausolus.

Colossus of Rhodes, Rhodes (an island in the Mediterranean Sea)
Built: Fourth century B.C.
A 110-foot (33.5-meter) statue honored the Greek sun god Helios.

Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt
Built: Third century B.C.
The world's first lighthouse used mirrors to reflect sunlight for miles out to sea.

Today In History; Oleg Cassini, Fashion Designer

1913: Oleg Cassini began his fashion career designing costumes for Twentieth Century Fox and other movie studios. Later, in 1960, he became the official designer to Jacqueline Kennedy, the chic First Lady who became the epitome of the famed Camelot look. Credited with creating styles such as the A-line dress, turtlenecks for men, and the Nehru jacket, Cassini became a household name, synonymous with great fashion. Over time, he expanded his fashion design empire to include fragrances, luggage, and accessories.

Word of The Day

Fumigate: To subject to the action of smoke or fumes, especially to destroy pests.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

News; Baby Gorilla Dunia Rescued

The poachers—illegal hunters—had finally found a buyer for their stolen goods. A meeting was arranged, and when the buyer asked to see the merchandise, they brought out a small duffel bag and unzipped it. Inside was a terrified one-year-old baby gorilla. The poachers had likely killed the little female’s parents and captured her in the forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Africa. Then they took her across the border into Rwanda, intending to sell her as a pet.

But the buyer didn’t bring money; he brought the cops. Busted! The poachers had been set up in a sting operation. They were arrested, but the Rwandan authorities knew the orphan was still in danger. They had rescued baby gorillas before and understood that they needed to act quickly. The authorities rushed the young gorilla to the nearby headquarters of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. The vets there realized that she had not been given enough food or water, but they were much more worried about something else she hadn’t been getting: touch.

Fragile: Handle With Care
“Baby gorillas simply don’t survive without their mother’s constant body contact,” says veterinarian Chris Whittier. “They give up the will to live. She surely would have died within a week if the poachers hadn’t been caught.” Surprisingly, gorillas, animals well known for their great size and strength, are extremely fragile creatures. The project’s staff immediately began holding and cuddling the little female—a kind of touch first aid. If they didn’t quickly establish a physical relationship with the baby eastern lowland gorilla, which her caretakers named Dunia, she would not survive.

Dunia resisted attention at first, shying away from people who reached for her. “Dunia needed contact, but there was no reason that she should trust people after what she’d been through,” Whittier says. “Humans had killed her family. “ The massive logging and mining industries in some central African countries bring many people deep into the forests. Hunters supply their need for food by killing almost any animal they find, including primates. Along with the massive habitat destruction caused by industry, illegal hunting threatens to drive the 20,000 to 30,000 remaining eastern lowland gorillas to extinction.

Winning Dunia’s Trust
Although the project’s primary mission is to care for the region’s 700 or so wild mountain gorillas, it had already taken in four other eastern lowland gorillas like Dunia. Three caretakers were assigned to her so she would be with a foster parent 24/7. They worked in shifts, taking turns holding her, carrying her around on their backs, and cradling her while she slept. “She didn’t trust humans right away,” says Whittier, “but she would rather be with somebody than be alone.”

Gorillas are vegetarians. Fortunately Dunia had a healthy appetite for the diet she was given—which included green beans, pineapples, bananas, and milk formulas. Although she became stronger, a month after she was rescued her appearance revealed the psychological stress she carried inside—much of her hair fell out. That was a delayed reaction to the combined traumatic experiences of losing her parents and being kept—with a poor diet—by the poachers.

Trust Established
After six months of loving care that included around-the-clock attention, a good diet, and a comfortable home at the project’s headquarters, Dunia was looking and acting like a healthy, happy young gorilla should. “Dunia is sort of a shy show-off,” says Whittier. “Her confidence is growing and she’s becoming more independent, but when she is startled, the first thing she does is run back to her caretakers, just like she would to her mother.”

Nevertheless, Dunia now ventures farther from her caregivers for longer periods of time. She enjoys carefree moments of exploration out in the grassy areas of her enclosure. Eventually, the vets at the project hope to place Dunia and the other orphaned gorillas in a sanctuary, and may be able to release them into the wild as a group. No matter where she ends up, Dunia will never be alone again.

Today In History; Marian Anderson sings at Lincoln Memorial

1939: On Easter Sunday in 1939, more than 75,000 people assembled in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to hear famed African-American contralto Marian Anderson give a free open-air concert. Anderson had been scheduled to sing at Washington's Constitution Hall, but the Daughters of the American Revolution, a conservative historical society that controlled the concert hall, refused to allow her to perform because of her race. An indignant Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady at the time, resigned her membership from the DAR in protest, and arranged Anderson's alternate performance at the Lincoln Memorial. The actions of both women brought clearly to the fore the problem of racial discrimination in America.

Word of The Day

Saponify: To convert (an ester) by saponification. To convert (a fat or oil) into soap.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

News; One Man's Goal: To Travel Around the World on His Own Power

Erden Eruç has been rowing across the Pacific Ocean in a 23-foot-long (7-meter) boat (about the length of three mini-vans) since he left California on July 10, 2007. He has been heading for Australia with only birds, fish, and sharks for company ever since.

As if that isn't amazing enough, crossing the Pacific is only part of his journey. Eruç has decided to circumnavigate (go all the way around) the world using only his own energy. Oh, and his plan includes climbing the tallest peak on six of the continents along the way, to honor the memory of a fellow climber.

Eruç will row, bike, walk, and climb the world without help from any motors at all.

For the first leg of his trip, he bicycled 5,546 miles (8925.44 kilometers) from Seattle, Washington to Mount McKinley in Alaska and back, walked 67 miles (107.8 kilometers) to base camp, and climbed 20,320 feet (6194 meters) to McKinley's peak. Now in the second part of his adventure, he is rowing to Australia.

Why would he try to complete a difficult and yet tremendous goal like going around the world this way? He explains that he wants to inspire kids to dream their dreams and reach their own goals. He wants to show kids that there might be tough parts along the way, and sometimes they might not even reach that final goal. But they can have great adventures and learn a lot along the way.

As a solo traveler, Eruç has already faced some disappointments and challenges. For example, because he has to row about 10 hours a day, he brought along an MP3 player to listen to music, books, and study Spanish to pass the time. Unfortunately, the nearly daily tropical rain for several months has forced him to keep his player packed away where it's safe and dry.

Not only that, but wind and waves keep pushing him westward when he wants to go south toward the Solomon Islands. Unlike big ships with powerful engines, his rowboat and arm power are no match for the winds. If his luck doesn't change, he will cheerfully change his plan, and aim to land at Papua New Guinea. One way or another, he's sure he'll reach his next goal: Australia.

Fortunately, Eruç has a snug, dry little cabin to crawl into when the daily rowing is done. He can use his little palm computer to connect to the Internet by way of a satellite phone. "For fun, I do emails and phone calls, read, and write in my journal a lot," he says.

Protein bars give him energy, and he boils water to heat freeze-dried meals on a one-burner stove. "But I'm out of mashed potatoes!" he says. A solar-powered machine removes salt from ocean water so he can drink it, but only when the sun shines. Because of the tropical rains, he's had to use a different desalination machine lately that he has to pump.

He's not bothered by the hard work or even being blown the wrong direction. Eruç sees the world as a laboratory where there is much to learn.

For example, he enjoys the many birds that visit him on his boat at sea. Frigatebirds or noddy terns are a clue that an island can't be far, because those birds always return to the shore at the end of the day. When his trip around the world takes him across land, he enjoys meeting people—especially children. He has already visited dozens of schools and shared his story.

Eruç encourages all kids to set their eyes on a goal and not give up. Like his experience in the Pacific Ocean, he says, it may be challenging, but if you don't try, you don't (or won't) go anywhere: "With goals, we will make progress, and we will be farther along than when we started, even if we don't reach some goals. That's called life!"

Today In History; Betty Ford, Former U.S. First Lady; Franz Liszt gives recital for Queen Victoria::: Double!

Ok, you may be asking.. "Is it a special day!?! :].................... If not, why is Princessa's Blog having double Today in Histories?"

Ok, ok, I know, there really isn't a reason, just found some interesting Today in Histories and I just said, hey, my blog needs a random present! I haven't updated my blog that much, maybe add a couple of pictures, but that is all, due to my being busy. I only write those posts, nothing much other than that, so.. Today I'm Doing A Special!

~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~

1886: On this day in 1886, composer Franz Liszt gave a recital for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. Hungarian-born Liszt was considered a musical genius, having made his public debut at the age of nine. Liszt was credited with creating the practice of the solo piano recital. Considered by many to be the greatest pianist of all time, Lizst was also a prolific and vastly talented composer. His compositions for the piano are among the most difficult to play.

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1918: Former First Lady Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer. She grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and aspired to be a dancer. She became a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York City, but later returned to her roots in Michigan. In 1948 she married Gerald Ford, who was in the midst of his first Congressional election campaign. Her husband's political career as a long-term Congressman from Michigan demanded a lifestyle that included living in Washington, D.C. Gerald Ford was vice president in the adminstration of Richard Nixon and in 1974, when President Nixon resigned, Ford became the fortieth president of the United States. Shortly afterwards, the First Lady underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer. As a public figure, she became an important spokesperson for the early detection of the disease. Later, she suffered from alcoholism and an addiction to analgesic drugs. On the insistence of her family, she sought treatment, and after her successful recovery she established the Betty Ford Center for chemical dependency.

Word of The Day

Clowder: A group of cats.


I wanted to buy a clowder, but I couldn't afford it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

News; Solar System's 'Look-Alike' Found

Astronomers have discovered a planetary system orbiting a distant star which looks much like our own.

They found two planets that were close matches for Jupiter and Saturn orbiting a star about half the size of our Sun.

Martin Dominik, from St Andrews University in the UK, said the finding suggested systems like our own could be much more common than we thought.

And he told a major meeting that astronomers were on the brink of finding many more of them.

The St Andrews researcher said this planetary system, and others like it, could host terrestrial planets like Earth. It was just a matter of time before such worlds were detected, he explained.

Dr Dominik told BBC News: "We found a system with two planets that take the roles of Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System. These two planets have a similar mass ratio and similar orbital radius and a similar orbital period.

"It looks like this may have formed in a similar way to our Solar System. And if this is the case, it looks like [our] Solar System cannot be unique in the Universe. There should be other similar systems out there which could host terrestrial planets."

Dr Dominik presented his work at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast.

Ultimate goal

The newfound planetary system, which orbits the star OGLE-2006-BLG-109L, is more compact than our own and is about five thousand light-years away.

Although nearly 300 extrasolar planets have been identified, astronomers have consistently failed to find planetary systems which resemble our own. Dr Dominik said only 10% of systems discovered so far are known to host more than one planet.

But he explained that all the techniques currently used to find exoplanets were strongly biased towards detecting gas giant planets orbiting at short distances from their parent stars.

The OGLE planets were found using a technique called gravitational micro-lensing, in which light from the faraway planets is bent and magnified by the gravity of a foreground object, in this case a another star.

"It's a kind of scaled-down version of our Solar System. The star the planets are orbiting is half as massive as the Sun and they orbit half as distant to their host star as Jupiter and Saturn orbit around the Sun," said Dr Dominik.

He said that the ultimate goal for exoplanet researchers was to find habitable Earth-like and Mars-like planets. This aim was achievable, he said, because technology was improving all the time.

"I think it will happen quite soon," he said, adding: "Micro-lensing can already go below Earth mass and it has detected more massive planets in the habitable zone. So in the next few years, we will see something really exciting."

Dr Dominik said there was competition between teams of astronomers using micro-lensing and those who favoured the transit technique, which seeks to detect new planets when, from our point of view, they pass directly in front of the parent star they are orbiting. The planet blocks a tiny fraction of the star's light, causing the star to periodically dim.

But he added that there was little chance to detect Earth-like worlds in OGLE-2006-BLG-109L because the system was too distant for current techniques to resolve planets the size of our own.

South Pacific opens at Majestic Theater

1949: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Pulitzer Prize winning musical South Pacific opened at the Majestic Theater in New York City and remained there for 1,928 performances. The show told the story of a group of navy personnel posted to an island in the South Pacific during World War II. It included many songs that became standards in their own right, such as "A Cockeyed Optimist," "Some Enchanted Evening," "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame," and "Bali Ha'i." But its catchy tunes and clever lyrics tackled serious themes: war and racism.

The sixteen-year musical collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein resulted in such award-winning shows as Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). Before starting their work together on the first of these, both men had had successful careers, and both were worried that those careers were at an end. But instead Oklahoma proved pivotal in the development of musical theatre, heralded the advent of perhaps the most successful partnership in the genre's history, and in 1944 won Rodgers and Hammerstein their first Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Word of The Day

Lave: To wash or bathe. Also: What is left over.


Remember, lave before bed.

Friday, April 4, 2008

News; Drinking Water: Water Bottle Pollution

If your family is like many in the United States, unloading the week’s groceries includes hauling a case or two of bottled water into your home. On your way to a soccer game or activity, it’s easy to grab a cold one right out of the fridge, right?

But all those plastic bottles use a lot of fossil fuels and pollute the environment. In fact, Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world, adding 29 billion water bottles a year to the problem. In order to make all these bottles, manufactueres use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months.

Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle.

So why don’t more people drink water straight from the kitchen faucet? Some people drink bottled water because they think it is better for them than water out of the tap, but that’s not true. In the United States, local governments make sure water from the faucet is safe. There is also growing concern that chemicals in the bottles themselves may leach into the water.

People love the convenience of bottled water. But maybe if they realized the problems it causes, they would try drinking from a glass at home or carrying water in a refillable steel container instead of plastic.

Plastic bottle recycling can help—instead of going out with the trash, plastic bottles can be turned into items like carpeting or cozy fleece clothing.

Unfortunately, for every six water bottles we use, only one makes it to the recycling bin. The rest are sent to landfills. Or, even worse, they end up as trash on the land and in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Plastic bottles take many hundreds of years to disintegrate.

Water is good for you, so keep drinking it. But think about how often you use water bottles, and see if you can make a change.

Betty McLaughlin, who runs an organization called the Container Recycling Institute, says try using fewer bottles: “If you take one to school in your lunch, don’t throw it away—bring it home and refill it from the tap for the next day. Keep track of how many times you refill a bottle before you recycle it.”

And yes, you can make a difference. Remember this: Recycling one plastic bottle can save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours.

Today In History

NATO: was established with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty by 12 nations (1949)
The Beatles: held all of the top 5 places on the Billboard Hot 100 (1964)
Martin Luther King, Jr.: was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was supporting striking sanitation workers (1968)

Word of The Day

1. A flight of birds.
2. A large bird cage; an aviary.


I think I'm going to try making some worksheets, they will vary. I will add them sometime tommorow, they will include:

(1.) Problem Solving (Math & English)
(2.) Word Mixup (Like, dyaot.. Which is actually today, but with the letters mixed up, they will be mixed up and spelled backwards.)
(2.) Crossword Puzzles.

I am happy to be able to get these new worksheets. :)


Thursday, April 3, 2008

News; Animal Myths Busted

Animals do some pretty strange things. Giraffes clean their eyes and ears with their tongues. Snakes see through their eyelids. Some snails can hibernate for three years. But other weird animal tales are hogwash. National Geographic Kids finds out how some of these myths started—and why they're not true.

Ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they're scared or threatened.

How It Started
It's an optical illusion! Ostriches are the largest living birds, but their heads are pretty small. "If you see them picking at the ground from a distance, it may look like their heads are buried in the ground," says Glinda Cunningham of the American Ostrich Association.

Why It's Not True
Ostriches don't bury their heads in the sand—they wouldn't be able to breathe! But they do dig holes in the dirt to use as nests for their eggs. Several times a day, a bird puts her head in the hole and turns the eggs. So it really does look like the birds are burying their heads in the sand!

Opossums hang by their tails.

How It Started
Opossums use their tails to grasp branches as they climb trees. So it's not surprising that people believe they also hang from branches.

Why It's Not True
A baby opossum can hang from its tail for a few seconds, but an adult is too heavy. Besides, says Paula Arms of the National Opossum Society, that wouldn't help them survive. "Why would they just hang around? That skill isn't useful—there's no point."

Touching a frog or toad will give you warts.

How It Started
Many frogs and toads have bumps on their skin that look like warts. Some people think the bumps are contagious.

Why It's Not True
"Warts are caused by a human virus, not frogs or toads," says dermatologist Jerry Litt. But the wartlike bumps behind a toad's ears can be dangerous. These parotoid glands contain a nasty poison that irritates the mouths of some predators and often the skin of humans. So toads may not cause warts, but they can cause other nasties. It's best not to handle these critters—warts and all!

Mother birds will reject their babies if they've been touched by humans.

How It Started
Well-meaning humans who find a chick on the ground may want to return the baby bird to the nest. But the bird is probably learning to fly and shouldn't be disturbed. The tale may have been invented to keep people from handling young birds.

Why It's Not True
"Most birds have a poorly developed sense of smell," says Michael Mace, bird curator at San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. "They won't notice a human scent." One exception: vultures, who sniff out dead animals for dinner. But you wouldn't want to mess with a vulture anyway!

Penguins fall backward when they look up at airplanes.

How It Started
Legend has it that British pilots buzzing around islands off South America saw penguins toppling over like dominoes when the birds looked skyward.

Why It's Not True
An experiment testing the story found that penguins are perfectly capable of maintaining their footing, even if they're watching airplanes. "But the reality isn't funny," says John Shears, who worked on the survey. "Low-flying aircraft can cause penguins to panic and leave their nests."

Today In History; Washington Irving, Author

1783: Washington Irving was born after the American Revolution; many people, therefore, consider him to be the first genuine American writer. He practiced law, storekeeping, soldiering, and newspaper writing until he had his first literary success, A History of New York. The book was a humorous review of the Dutch influence in New York City, written under the pen name Diedrich Knickerbocker. More books followed, including a carefully researched history of the voyages of Columbus. But his most famous works are his supernaturally tinged short stories, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," both of which still have wide audiences today.

Word of The Day

Habitue: One who habitually frequents a place.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

News; Food That Fools You

Photo: plates of food and drinks
This food looks delicious, but don't be fooled!

If you chomped into this mouth-watering meal, your taste buds would never trust you again. Why? You’d get a mouthful of paper towels, cotton balls, dish soap, plus other yucky surprises.

Food stylists and photographers use many tricks to make food look delicious for advertisements and cookbooks. For instance, milk on cereal might be replaced with white glue. That way the cereal doesn’t get soggy. Or lemon juice might be added to a banana to keep it from turning brown. “Food is basically like cut flowers,” says food stylist Lisa Cherkasky. “It’s amazing how fast it dries up and shrinks.”

National Geographic Kids takes you on the set to check out the secrets of food styling. Just make sure that it’s only your eyes that do the feasting!

Soapy Milk
To make milk look freshly poured, food stylists add dish soap bubbles to the surface just before the shoot. This trick works for coffee and other drinks, too.

Nice Ice
Don’t crunch those ice cubes! They’re actually hand-carved plastic blocks that cost up to $50 each. The thirst-quenching cranberry juice is really red food coloring mixed with water.

Hot Potato?
This spud might look smoking hot. But the steam was created by heating a wet cotton ball in a microwave oven and hiding it behind the potato. Squeezable margarine instead of real melted butter adds to the ready-to-eat illusion.

Chicken with Paper Stuffing
This chicken is only partly cooked. Otherwise its skin would get wrinkly and burned. To give it that well-roasted look, the food stylist painted the bird with a special brown mixture. To keep it plump, the chicken is stuffed with paper towels.

Indoor Grill
Can’t you just smell the charcoal grill? In reality, the burn marks are seared into the veggies using a very hot electric coil. Some stylists apply eyeliner to make fake grill marks.

Waterproof Bread
The bread is coated with a special spray that people normally use to protect car interiors from water and sun. Stylists use the spray to keep bread from drying out.

Icing Cream and Lipstick Berries
This scoop of vanilla is actually store-bought cake icing mixed with powdered sugar. That means it won’t melt under bright lights while the camera clicks. White areas on the strawberries have been touched up with lipstick.

Styling Toolbox
Food stylists know all sorts of tricks to make food look yummy. But they also have tools that they never leave home without. Here are a few of them.

Jeweler's Torch: A jeweler uses this flaming tool to repair broken necklaces and secure gems in rings. A food stylist uses the torch to brown the edges of a steak or melt chocolate chips in a cookie.

Superglue: Great for patching skin on a chicken or holding together a pile of nuts.

Tweezers: The tiny prongs help rearrange sesame seeds on a bun or place rice on a plate.

Ice powder: Mixed with water and food coloring, this product creates tasty-looking but fake icy treats such as slushes.

Hans Christian Andersen, Danish Fairy Tale Author

1805: Considered the father of the modern fairy tale, Andersen was born to poor parents in the slums of Odense, Denmark. He received little formal education as a child but his father, who was literate, encouraged his interest in learning and in theater. An awkward child, Andersen often suffered humiliation at the hands of his peers, but he remained passionate about his love of forklore and the arts. When his father died in 1816, Andersen was forced to go to work. He apprenticed for short periods to a weaver and a tailor and also worked in a tobacco factory. At age 14, Andersen moved to Copenhagen to pursue a career as a singer, dancer, or actor, but soon realized that writing was his true passion. Through the help of a benefactor, Andersen gained admission to Copenhagen University, where he completed his education. By the late 1820s, Andersen had published poems, travel sketches, and even a musical drama produced by the Royal Theater. But his Fairy Tales and Stories were the source of his lasting success. Andersen's fairy tales were distinguished by their originality; most were not updates of existing folktales, a common practice of the time. His first small volume appeared in 1835 Fairy Tales Told to the Children and Andersen continued to turn out additional volumes of fairy tales over the next three decades. Among his most well-known tales are "The Little Mermaid" (1837), "The Emperor's New Clothes" (1837), "The Ugly Duckling" (1843), "The Princess and the Pea" (1835), and "The Snow Queen" (1845).

Andersen's fairy tales and other works have been translated into well over a hundred languages and many of the fairy tales have been popularized in film versions. A 1952 movie musical starring Danny Kaye was loosely based on Andersen's life.

Word of The Day

Skein: A long length of yarn wrapped in a loose twist.
Also, a flock of wild fowl.


I need to buy beads, skein, and fabric.